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January 17th, 2013:

January reports for SD06 candidates

Stace beat me to the punch in reporting on the January campaign finance reports for SD06, so I’ll have to one up him by being more obsessive thorough in bringing the numbers. So here we go.

Seven of the eight candidates filed a January report for the race. Susan Delgado was the lone exception, but she will play a role in this story. I’ll get to that in a minute. First, the big two candidates, beginning with Carol Alvarado:

Raised $343,653
Spent $426,934
Cash $304,349

Notable contributions: Several of her current and former House colleagues, plus one former Senator, kicked in – Burt Solomons, Ellen Cohen, David Farabee, Kip Averitt, Diana Maldonado, Rep. Marisa Marquez, and Rep. Richard Raymond, to the tune of $10K; the others all contributed modest amounts. Other big numbers that caught my eye include $26K from HillCo PAC, $23K from HPOU PAC, $13,500 from HPFFA PAC, $10K each from Kamoru, Kase, and Mickey Lawal, $10K from Bob Perry, and $10K from Bill and Andrea White. As Stace noted, Alvarado received a lot of support from various police and firefighter groups – a firefighter PAC from Fort Worth chipped in another $2,500. Alvarado, who mentioned in her interview with me has filed legislation to expand gambling in Texas, also got $2,500 from the Chickasaw Nation and $1K from the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas. Finally, Alvarado has a direct connection to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast through her sister Yolanda, and has a $145 contribution from PPGC CEO Melaney Linton to show for it.

Next up, Sylvia Garcia:

Raised $244,086
Spent $320,381
Cash $474,006

Notable contributions: Garcia also got support from current and past legislators – Ana Hernandez, Armando Walle, and Ellen Cohen, plus 2012 candidate Ann Johnson and 2010 candidate Silvia Mintz. She didn’t get any donations that I saw from a member of the Senate but did get one from Senate spouse Carlos Zaffirini. As noted by Stace, Garcia got the single biggest contribution of any candidate, $106K in kind from the Texas Organizing Project PAC for ground support. Steve Mostyn kicked in $12,680 in cash and in kind. Finally, Garcia got my two favorite contributions of this cycle. One was $100 from fellow candidate Susan Delgado. I can’t be certain this is the same Susan Delgado, but contributor Delgado listed the same ZIP code as candidate Delgado did on her July 2012 report, so you make the call. Finally, all the way from Hawaii where she lists her occupation as “retired”, former Houston Mayor Kathy Whitmire, now Kathy Whitmire Wehner, gave $200. How awesome is that?

And the rest, as the theme song from “Gilligan’s Island” used to conclude:

RW Bray

Raised $300
Spent $1,310
Cash $620

Maria Selva

Raised $1,075
Spent $1,287
Cash $0
Loan $212

Dorothy Olmos

Raised $0
Spent $3,500
Cash $3,500
Loan $3,500

Rodolfo Reyes

Raised $0
Spent $7,750
Cash $0
Loan $8,107

Joaquin Martinez

Raised $447
Spent $1,250
Cash $0

This is another illustration why I agree with those who do not see any chance for RW Bray to make the runoff. If this special election had been held last November, the pool of voters would be more than big enough to give Bray a legitimate shot at the top two. But how many of those people who did vote for him in November do you think even know there’s an election going on now? He doesn’t have the resources to let them know that he needs their support. Between that and the presence of habitual candidate Dorothy Olmos on the ballot, I just see no prospect for Bray to advance. Speaking of Olmos, her reported totals make no sense, but it’s not worth worrying about. For them and for the others, their reports speak for themselves.

With six days down and six to go in early voting, 4,288 ballots have been cast, with in person votes just nosing ahead of absentee ballots. You can see the totals here. Yesterday was the first day of 7 AM to 7 PM voting, so I’d expect the daily totals to increase. I’d put the over/under at 10K early votes right now, but that could easily go up. Still, the low end of turnout projections is looking likely at this point. Ask me again in a week. PDiddie and TM Daily Post have more.

Abbott’s millions

If there’s one thing Attorney General Greg Abbott is good at, it’s accumulating money.

Fueling growing speculation of a bid for the Texas Governor’s Mansion, Attorney General Greg Abbott reported Tuesday he has amassed a campaign war chest of $18 million, three times the amount claimed by incumbent Gov. Rick Perry.

While both men publicly have stated they will not make a decision about their political futures until the Legislature ends in June, Abbott’s stunning fundraising success provided more grist for the Austin rumor mill that he will try to advance up the political ladder sooner, rather than later.

Abbott spokesman Eric Bearse declined to speculate how his boss would direct his campaign largesse.

“The attorney general is focused on protecting Texas taxpayers and enforcing the laws of Texas,” Bearse said. “He’s grateful to all his supporters who have made his service possible.”


Political observers were impressed with the hand shown by Abbott, who raised $4.1 million in the most recent reporting period.

“It’s hard to look at that number and not think he’s planning to run a race at the top of the ticket,” said Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas. “This further fuels the intrigue of what each man will do.”

Austin political consultant Bill Miller agreed that Abbott’s prodigious fundraising signaled an interest in higher office. “He’s accumulating a lot of money with the intention of making a run for higher office,” though exactly when remains unknown, said Miller. “That’s how I read the dollar signs.”

You can see his report here. It should be noted that Rick Perry raised over $3.5 million, and David Dewhurst $3.3 million in the same reporting period, so as far as that goes Abbott wasn’t that far ahead of the pack. It’s just that Abbott has been sitting on millions for years, and it’s really started to pile up. He had $8.5 million in January of 2009, $9.2 million in January of 2011, right after his last election, and $12.0 million last January. One presumes he’s raising it for a reason, but who knows, maybe the reason is just that he likes having a ginormous amount of money at his command.

One thing you can’t say is that no one could ever use that much money. Looking back at 2010, Rick Perry spent $4.7 million (raising $7.1 million in the same time) in the last six months of 2009; $1.9 million through January 21, 2010; $8.8 million from January 22 through February 20; and $3.4 million after that through June 30, raising another $7 million in the process. That’s $18.8 million, technically over a year but really in nine months. So yeah, if Abbott intends to run for Governor and especially if he has to knock off Rick Perry to get there, I can’t really say he “needs” all that money but I feel confident in saying he’ll spend it. On a campaign to vigorously oppose out-of-control spending, of course, on which the irony will go completely unremarked.

Burka thinks Perry’s relatively small cash on hand number – only in this context could $6 million be a small number – is another sign he’s fixing to hang it up after this term ends. He doesn’t think Perry wants to risk his record of not losing an election. I get that, but I’m not so sure. How many elite athletes choose to retire while their skills are still sharp? Very few take that path – most continue to play long after it’s apparent to everyone else that they’re not the player they once were. That’s a hard thing to admit, and the same drive that made them what they are makes it difficult to see when it’s over. I think Perry thinks he can win, and frankly I’m not sure that he’s wrong. Be that as it may, I’m not sure he’s the type of person to graciously step aside and let someone else have what he’s had all to himself for the past decade. I think it will have to be taken from him. We’ll see.

Finally, in a bit of late-breaking news, Abbott apparently has enough money to troll the New York Times in search of alienated gun-obsessed New Yorkers. Speaking as someone who grew up in one of the Republican parts of New York (Staten Island), all I can say is that I honestly can’t think of anyone I knew back then who had a gun. It just wasn’t part of the culture. (Dad, if you’re reading this, please chime in with a comment.) I can’t speak to how things are now on the Island, and I can’t speak to how things are in upstate New York, but to the extent that my experience holds I daresay that Abbott – who I’m sure is quite ignorant of New York – will get less of a response than he might think. I’ll have to keep an eye on what my Facebook peeps from back east have to say about this.

Like it or not, Obamacare is coming to Texas

The Better Texas blog reminds us that as the Affordable Care Act fully kicks in next year there are things that need to be done in Texas to be compliant

It's constitutional - deal with it

[W]hat I hope to see are bills that prepare Texas for 2014 market changes to help keep premiums reasonable, encourage competition, and ensure that the Texas Department Insurance (TDI) can protect Texas consumers.

Starting in 2014:

  • Insurers can no longer deny coverage based on pre-existing conditions or charge sick people, women, and small businesses more;
  • Subsidies will be available to help Texans above the poverty line buy private health coverage in the new exchange;
  • New risk adjustment mechanisms kick in.  They aim to eliminate incentives for insurers to avoid enrollees in poor health, while keeping any one insurer from bearing more than its fair share of risk from sicker enrollees; and
  • Many policies must contain “essential health benefits,” a new floor for coverage.

In light of these sweeping market changes, TDI needs appropriate tools to protect health insurance consumers.  First, TDI needs to be able to reject unreasonable rate increases. Insurers will incorporate all of the changes listed above will into health insurance premiums.   Consumers will benefit if the experts and actuaries at TDI check that insurers have made reasonable assumptions about costs and savings that come from these changes and have authority to deny excessive rate increases.

Second, TDI needs clear authority to enforce new consumer protections, such as no more pre-existing condition exclusions.  Unless Texas updates its Insurance Code to reflect consumer protections that take effect in 2014, conflicting state and federal laws will create confusion for consumers and insurers alike.  And if TDI isn’t authorized to enforce new consumer protections, federal regulators may step in.

Well, the feds are going to be running our insurance exchanges, so why not let them handle consumer protection, too? How much do you trust Rick Perry’s TDI to get this right? The irony here is that not giving TDI the tools to enforce the new insurance regulations might be seen as poking a finger in the feds’ eyes when in fact it’s opening the door for them, much as the refusal to implement insurance exchanges was. The logic sure is hard to understand sometimes.

One more election for 2013

There will be another special election in November to replace a departing member of the HCC Board of Trustees.

Richard Schechter

The Houston Community College board will have two new faces after trustee Richard Schechter submitted his resignation and Mary Ann Perez was elected to the state House.

HCC trustees will swear in former trustee Herlinda Garcia on Thursday to temporarily replace Perez until a special election in November. They also plan to accept Schechter’s resignation and are expected to appoint an interim soon.

Schechter, an attorney elected to the board in November 2005, did not give a specific reason for his resignation but said the time was right after voters recently approved a $425 million bond issue for new college buildings.

“Now, after the passage of the bond, I think this is an appropriate time for me to step aside and allow someone else the opportunity to serve our community,” Schechter wrote in his resignation letter.

I had previously noted the special election that will be needed to cover the remaining term of now-State Rep. Mary Ann Perez, which expires in 2015. Whoever is appointed to replace Schechter will have to run again (or step down and leave the seat open) to fill the rest of his term, which runs through 2017. Schechter, whom I interviewed about the HCC bond referendum, deserves kudos for that and for helping to persuade his boardmates to put their campaign finance reports online. I wish him and Rep. Perez well with what comes next for them, and I wish Trustee Garcia and Schechter’s successor well on the board.

Texas blog roundup for the week of January 14

The Texas Progressive Alliance is digging in for another long legislative session as it brings you this week’s roundup.